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85th annual conference for Utah writers finds success in virtual surroundings

COVID-19 didn't break The League of Utah Writers' decades-old streak
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Posted at 10:17 PM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 00:31:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The League of Utah Writers' annual conference, which concluded Sunday, was very different from other annual conferences in the organization's 85-year history.

Although COVID-19 forced The Quills Conference into the less-personal spaces of YouTube and Zoom, LUW still hosted a large group of writers (from the aspiring to the successful), editors, agents and other interested parties who share a passion for writing and literature.

“We have a wonderful, vibrant writing community in Utah. Moving forward, we will concentrate on fresh ways to teach, to network, and to help one another learn and grow and achieve our goals as writers. Each generation of writers learns from the one before, and then becomes the mentors of those who follow them, and I love being a part of that," said incoming LUW President John M. Olsen in a news release.

Presenters included New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry, Nebula award-winning author and former President of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Cat Rambo, Stoker award-winning horror writer and poet Linda Addison and Michael Stackpole, who is known for his Star Wars and BattleTech books.

The four-day conference was not the organization's first virtual event. They also held a smaller online conference in May.

"[W]e took the lessons learned from Spring and added a LOT to the experience. Spring only had the pre-recorded presentations and a few live Q&As. We expanded that for Quills to include the live workshops, the pitch sessions, and the social room. We really built on our learned lessons," explained Bryan Young, the organization's president-elect. "One of my big takeaways is that we can accomplish quite a lot in the age of COVID by putting our heads together (from a safe, social distance) and create events that are just as successful as an in-person event and provide the same value to the writers of the league without losing our uninterrupted streak of conferences dating back to 1935."

The virtual nature of this year's "Quills" event may have inhibited the social interactions and the excitement of the awards ceremony, but Young said the event was just as successful as those in previous years.

"We had dozens of writers get manuscript requests from the big agents and publishers that (virtually) came to town and we gave out almost $3,000 in cash prizes for our annual writing conference," Young said.

Award winners included Charlie N. Holmberg, who earned the Writer of the Year award for her contributions to the league and her success in publishing.

The Diamond Quill Award—The League of Utah Writers' highest honor—went to Jo Schneider for her novel "#Lured."

Click here for a complete list of this year's award winners.

RELATED STORY: Hundreds assemble for League of Utah Writers' 84th Quills conference